Although there are many different types of tow trucks, the thread that runs between all of them is that operating such a vehicle and the machinery on it is dangerous work. Los Angeles tow truck drivers must remain fully aware of the traffic conditions around them, especially after they’ve exited the truck, and they’re on their feet.
It’s Dangerous Work
Operating a tow truck is one of the most dangerous jobs that a person can have. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that a tow truck driver dies in an accident once every five days. As per the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, that rate is 15 times greater than other people who are employed in private industry.
California’s “Move Over” Law
Every state in the country has what’s known as a “move over” law. California’s is found at CVC 21809. It requires drivers to try and move over to another traffic lane when they’re passing a stationary tow truck with its amber lights on. If a motorist can’t move over, he or she must slow down to a reasonable and prudent speed given the existing weather, road, traffic and pedestrian conditions.
Common Causes of Tow Truck Driver Injuries and Deaths
Most of the serious injuries and deaths involving tow truck drivers are caused by other drivers. Almost always, the tow truck driver has exited the vehicle and is on his feet in a lane of traffic or the side of a roadway. Here are some of the common causes of those injuries and fatalities:
- Distracted drivers who are talking on cellular devices, texting, using infotainment centers or are otherwise distracted from what’s occurring on the roadway.
- Negligent drivers who fail to move over or slow down to a safe speed.
- Reckless drivers who are trying to get around or through the scene of an accident.
- Drivers who are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two.
Here’s What Tow Truck Drivers Need to Know
A tow truck driver who is injured in the course and scope of his employment by a foreseeable risk of that employment becomes eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Those benefits are particularly important during the driver’s incapacity after suffering serious work-related injuries. Benefits generally consist of the following:
- Temporary total disability payments during the time that the injured employee is unable to work as a result of the injuries suffered.
- Payment of reasonable and necessary medical expenses in connection with the accident.
- The lump-sum compensation for any permanent partial disability suffered by the employee.
- Funeral and burial costs in the event of the employee’s death.
When Injury or Death is Caused by Another Driver
Another general rule in California is that when an employee suffers a work-related injury, workers’ compensation benefits are that employee’s sole and exclusive remedy. An exception to this rule arises when the employee was injured or died as a result of the negligence of another driver. Under those circumstances, not only can the tow truck driver claim workers’ compensation benefits, but a personal injury lawsuit can also be filed against the driver who caused his injuries or death. That lawsuit can be filed at the same time that workers’ compensation benefits are being sought or received.
No Double Recoveries
The law doesn’t permit two recoveries for one injury or death, so a workers’ compensation lien will attach to any sums that might be derived through a personal injury lawsuit. As a result, the workers’ compensation insurer is entitled to reimbursement of any sums that it paid on the tow truck driver’s behalf. As the personal injury case contemplates additional damages that aren’t recoverable under workers’ compensation benefits, it’s likely that the case will have a value that is significantly more than the workers’ compensation claim. A quality personal injury lawyer might even negotiate any workers’ compensation lien down too.
Contact a Los Angeles Tow Truck Attorney Today
If you’re a Los Angeles tow truck driver who was injured in a work-related accident or a family member of one who died in an accident, contact our offices right away for a free consultation and case review. You or your family might be entitled to substantially more compensation than you think.